Laws and Women

Today, in light of the Supreme Courts recent ruling, I find myself reflecting on both women’s rights and on the women in my family.

I just read about the 19th Amendment HERE to remind myself of the date it passed – 1920. This amendment legally guarantees American women the right to vote. Yet, as I read on, I realize it should instead be more specific and say white women, stating that “Decades of struggle to include African Americans and other minority women in the promise of voting rights remained. Many women remained unable to vote long into the 20th century because of discriminatory state voting laws.” (from National Archives)

Those words, discriminatory laws, stick with me as I remember my grandmother, Isabel. (I wrote about her HERE back in March). When describing her career working at American Security Bank, I briefly state “She had to say her name was Miss Isabel Sulzer because a married woman couldn’t be hired”. A discriminatory banking law would not hire Isabel unless she hid her identity as a wife and mother. So she hid this part of her life and took the job and earned the needed money to help raise her family. She continued working in this way for 30+ years at the bank. Such a law, created by the white male bankers who were fine with her skills, devotion and work ethic to the bank, allowed those same men to ignore her whole identity. They never took the time to see her as a woman, with a life beyond the bank as a wife and mother and grandmother.

My grandmother and grandfather valued education and ensured their one daughter attend the neighborhood Catholic school and two years of college before she married. They were thrilled when their daughter became a wife and then a mother. They embraced and spoiled their five grandchildren. My grandmother must have celebrated when her daughter was seen by all as a wife and mother. No hiding of her identity was necessary for a woman marrying in the 1950s America. My mother first was a a homemaker and mother to five. Once her husband chose to start his own business, she jumped in and used her secretarial skills to send out the billings and record the payments, as if she had an accounting degree. When her husband died suddenly at age 55 from a heart attack, she went on to run his company until she retired when she turned 65.

Now in 2022, it seems America is returning to a 20th century practice, when women must again hide and lie due to a law created by white males. My grandmother’s two female great-granddaughters purposely vote. These same two women, my daughters, purposely are choosing to live in Europe, one in France, one in the Netherlands. They both value living in a country where healthcare is given to all. They both value living in a country where parents are given time off when a baby is born. They both value living in a place where women are allowed to make decisions about their own bodies.

Back in 1920, as Isabel turned twelve, her mother could celebrate how her white daughter would grow up with the right to vote. Now, over a hundred years later, I see laws made by white American men causing my girls to leave America. If or when I have a granddaughter, I wonder what life will be like for her? Will she be able to share her identity fully and freely? Will her country treat her with respect? Is there anything I can do to help? Today I reflect on laws and the women in my family but I am a bit too numb to make a plan of action.

7 thoughts on “Laws and Women

  1. mbhmaine says:

    This is such a powerful slice. It’s so hard to process all of this change and looking at it through the eyes of the women in your family is intimate and… well… powerful. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Trish says:

    That your daughters find home elsewhere because this place has alienated them with policy is a heartbreak. I thank you for making the political so powerfully personal.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Greg&Linda says:

    Thank you for sharing. I found this to be moving, and disturbing (as it should be). I don’t understand our country and the people who support suppressing the rights of others. Or, should I say, the people who cherry-pick which rights to suppress. I hope your daughters are enjoying where they live and that you can visit often!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erika says:

      So sad to have our country regressing and repressing in so many ways. I understand your feeling of not even being able to make a plan of action- it is overwhelming. I hope your daughters can find ways to keep you close!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Melanie White says:

    Wow. The stories of your ancestors are carried forward in this moving post. I have so many questions as I look from Canada and wonder how a place so intent on the “separation of church and state” can ironically have those values upheld by the state – but, of course, these are only Christian values as interpreted by those in power. I saw a post on social media today by a 92 year old lesbian encouraging others to “fight”. And that is the work. We gather near and far. We remember the progress made by our ancestors and we continue the fight against oppression. Thank you for sharing your story, Sally.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. humbleswede says:

    This is a great and important post. We seem to repeatedly make gains in this country and then perhaps become complacent, and see those gains be modified or undone. I know there is an ebb and flow to progress, but we seem to be in a drastic ebb right now. It’s so sad that your daughters have to find their freedom, respect, and basic services/rights overseas. I wish more Americans could see how backward we are in the way our government serves or fails to serve the people.


  6. mschiubookawrites says:

    Thank you for sharing your reflections and family history in this post. We need to keep these stories alive to remind ourselves of the progress and regressions society has made. Your writing powerfully unpacked the inexplicable rulings of today with the resilience of the past. As we recover from the shock, let’s act to embrace the hope of tomorrow… for future generations.


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